Wednesday Reads: Hobby Lobby Loves Them Pre-Cooked

14c4a1ed09743ffd58d8053c7aa93f11Good Morning

You must have heard about the latest from Hobby Lobby, the hypocrisy is so disgusting…Hobby Lobby Allegedly Fired Employee Due to Pregnancy

When a very pregnant Felicia Allen applied for medical leave from her job at Hobby Lobby three years ago, one might think that the company best known for denying its employees insurance coverage of certain contraceptives—on the false grounds that they cause abortions—would show equal concern for helping one of its employees when she learned she was pregnant. Instead, Allen says the self-professed evangelical Christian arts-and-crafts chain fired her and then tried to prevent her from accessing unemployment benefits. “They didn’t even want me to come back after having my baby, to provide for it,” she says. Her allegations—as well as those brought by other former Hobby Lobby employees—call into question the company’s public claims when it comes to protecting life and operating its business with Christian values. Additionally, they highlight a practice by which Hobby Lobby prevents its employees from seeking justice through the courts.

Yeah, you can read more details at the link. But as Eric Loomis, LG&M points out: That Pro-Life Hobby Lobby

And here I thought Hobby Lobby was acting out of very strong principle for life and not because it hates women and wants to punish them for having sex. There’s also this gem:

When Allen applied for unemployment benefits, she says Hobby Lobby’s corporate office gave the unemployment agency a false version of events, claiming she could have taken off personal leave but chose not to. In the end, Allen says she won her claim for unemployment benefits, but she felt she had been wrongly discriminated based on the fact that she was pregnant. In February 2012 she sued Hobby Lobby, but her lawsuit was swiftly dropped because, like most—if not all—Hobby Lobby employees, Allen had signed away her rights to sue the company. Though the multibillion-dollar, nearly 600-store chain took its legal claim against the federal government all the way to the Supreme Court when it didn’t want to honor the health insurance requirements of the Affordable Care Act, the company forbids its employees from seeking justice in the court of law. Allen had signed a binding arbitration agreement upon taking the job, though she says she doesn’t remember doing so. The agreement, which all Hobby Lobby employees are required to sign, forces employees to resolve legal disputes outside of court through a process known as arbitration.

Lying so she couldn’t get unemployment is very special, but forcing employees to sign documents waiving their right to sue the company in order to be hired should be as illegal as the yellow-dog contract. I would ask how something like that is even legal in this nation, but of course I already know why–because corporations control our lives in ways they have not in a century.

I have plenty more links for you, but because I must take the boy to his endocrinologist in Atlanta tomorrow…I will just give it to you in dump fashion. Religious violence in 2013 displaced millions | Al Jazeera America

Millions of people were forced from their homes because of their religious beliefs last year, the U.S. government said Monday, citing the devastating impact of conflicts in Syria, Iraq and the Central African Republic. Secretary of State John Kerry called the displacement of families and devastation of communities from sectarian violence a troubling trend in the world, as he launched the State Department 2013 report on religious freedom. The report said that in much of the Middle East, the Christian presence is becoming “a shadow of its former self.” Hundreds of thousands of minority Christians have fled Syria after three years of civil war. It also highlighted more than one million people displaced in the Central African Republic during 2013, amid an upsurge in Christian-Muslim violence. In Southeast Asia, the spread of anti-Muslim violence spread from Myanmar‘s volatile west to central Meiktila, with up to 100 deaths and 12,000 displaced. Kerry further cited the “savagery and incredible brutality” by the al-Qaeda-inspired militant group active in Iraq and Syria, known as the Islamic State, saying it had slaughtered Shiite Muslims and forcibly converted Christians under threat of death. The report, released annually, reviews how religious freedoms are respected and violated in almost 200 countries and territories.

This 19-year-old confessed to killing a woman in 1963. You won’t believe what happened next.

In 1963, a 17-year-old Indiana youth named Robert J. Dowlut reportedly confessed to police — amid a pile of evidence — that he’d killed a local woman. The next year, a jury of his peers heard the case and found  Dowlut guilty. What happened next? A) He died in the electric chair. B) He lived a long life and is currently the chief lawyer for the National Rifle Association.

Read about this here: The NRA’s Murder Mystery | Mother Jones I really don’t know why they bother to research this next item of news,  WASHINGTON: Past-due debt prevalent across U.S., with South the highest | Economy | McClatchy DC What more would anyone expect.  At least there is Good News: Mississippi’s Only Abortion Clinic Can Remain Open Here is a few health stories: Take Two: Just How Good Are Generic Meds Anyway? | Mother Jones Previously unknown virus that lives in half the world’s population could play a major role in obesity and diabetes – Medical News Today The Challenges of Having Sex as a Little Person – Merissa Nathan Gerson – The Atlantic And let’s not stop with little people sex, what about panda sex: Nixon on Panda Sex – Lawyers, Guns & Money In fact, more of Nixon’s tapes are in the news, as two new books are released,  The Untapped Secrets of the Nixon Tapes – Evan Thomas – The Atlantic From a former president to a former First Lady: The Best “Dear John Letter” Ever Sent | Mother Jones

In 1947, years before she met John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier sent her high school boyfriend what is maybe my favorite Dear John letter of all time.

“I’ve always thought of being in love as being willing to do anything for the other person—starve to buy them bread and not mind living in Siberia with them—and I’ve always thought that every minute away from them would be hell—so looking at it that [way] I guess I’m not in love with you.”

Jackie O. would have been 85 Monday. RIP.

For more fascinating reads, look at this: Read the Notorious RBG at Her Most Blistering

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, teeny tiny goddess of judicial feminism incarnate, has authored many a badass piece of legal writing in her day. Now, thanks to some devoted brainiacs who are better at this sort of thing than I am, you can read the sharpest work of the grand dame in one place.

The folks at People for the American Way (a progressive think tank) have put together a lovely treasury of RBG’s greatest hits. Perfect light reading for the next time you put your head in a big pile of curls on your head and take a bubble bath, or lie out on a Caribbean beach, or a good thing to read to the kids when you’re trying to get them to bed. Yep. Just a little light legal reading.

Meanwhile, Officials Pull Back From Crash Site as the Army Puts Pressure on Rebels – NYTimes.com And if you are worried about the big flood: Climate refugees, DO NOT MOVE TO THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST | Grist

Many Seattle residents revere Cliff Mass as the Yoda of weather in the Northwest. On his blog and through spots in local media, this professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington helps us process our snowpocalypses and measure out Lexapro for 10 months of the year. Now he’s turning his big-weather brain to something regularly on our minds here at Grist: “As global warming takes hold later in the century, where will be the best place in the lower 48 states to escape its worst effects?” Here’s the short answer from Cliff:

Everyone stay where you are.
Cliff Mass
Everyone stay where you are.

On his blog entry, Mass goes into much more scientific detail on climate effects for the Lower 48 (complete with loads more charts). But even from this map, we can glean a few key takeaways.

  • You’ll notice Mass highlighted most of the Eastern seaboard, the Gulf of Mexico, and sections of California in bright red. Areas of sea-level rise? Ohnonononono. You misunderstand completely. Those are spots where candy will grow on trees — because adaptation! Florida’s famous orange groves will evolve into chocolate orange groves and just work their way up the coast to Connecticut. Delicious!
  • Take a look at all that yellow in the Southwest. Any guesses? Correct: That is precisely where state and local governments are likely to enforce three-day workweeks. And if you worry that moving to Phoenix, Los Angeles, or Austin means you’ll spend every extra-long weekend wearing spikes and riding in a rusty dune buggy on your way to bludgeon the neighbors to death over water resources, here’s a tip: Don’t!
  • Orange! This DOES NOT mean this area gets more oranges (duh, pay attention; that was yellow). It does signify that every day will be Christmas. It also signifies that more Christmases will be wetter, windier, and generally more hurricane-y. P.S. I got you galoshes. (AGAIN, I know. Tee-hee!) Merry Christmas!
  • Purple, purple, purple — Big Purp practically owns the map. Good thing, too, because from Montana to Maine, climate-changed citizenry will THRILL to the incredible cellphone coverage. No more dropped calls in Chicago. No more blips in Butte. Just blazing-fast downloads and crystal-clear audio, from your hot, cracked lips to your heatstroked fingertips. (Caveat: Customers will notice an increase in dropped calls from underground bunkers and heat hovels.)
  • Say what about the green dots? Oh, those are flooding rivers and total shitholes.

Now for the last few remaining links for the day, a couple of stories from Hollywood and two others on digging up the past… Effort to save ‘Tara’ plantation facade before it’s ‘Gone with the Wind’ – NY Daily News Kodak, Studios Negotiating Last Ditch Effort to Keep Film in Hollywood – Hollywood Reporter Traces of Lincoln’s Courthouse Found in Illinois – Archaeology Magazine Erosion Exposes Human Remains on Kwajalein Atoll – Archaeology Magazine Have a good day and hope you share your thoughts in the comments below. A woman waves from a float during the Carnaval des Fleurs…

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Saturday: An Autumn Potpourri of Reads

Fall in New England

Fall in New England

Good Morning!!

Isn’t that a gorgeous photo? It was taken in New Hampshire near Mount Washington in October 2011.

A potpourri is “a combination of incongruous things.” Well that’s what I have for you this morning. We’ll begin at Sea-Tac airport in Seattle where Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell, 79, was arrested by TSA police for having a loaded gun in his carry-on bag. He was held for about half-an-hour and then released. He has a permit for the gun. Russell was on his way to Boston where a statue of him will be unveiled on November 1.

Did you hear about the morons in Utah who destroyed a 170-million-year-old rock formation and made a video of themselves doing it?  From the Deseret News:

Two men have come under scrutiny by the public and possibly by prosecutors after a video made the rounds online showing them pushing over an iconic rock formation.

The men were visiting Goblin Valley State Park last week when they said they noticed a precariously perched

boulder that was loose and worried it would fall on someone. The delicate “goblin” formation, also known as a “hoodoo,” is one of many that gives the park its name.

What followed was a video showing the men joking and laughing as Glenn Taylor, of Highland, topples the rock, narrated by cameraman Dave Hall, who says lives have been saved. A third man, identified as Taylor’s son, watches.

These two ignorant fools, who are Boy Scout leaders (!), thought the ancient rock formation was suddenly going to tip over and crush someone.

Utah State Parks spokesman Eugene Swalberg called the video disturbing. Possible criminal charges are being screened by the Emery County Attorney’s Office and the Utah Attorney General’s Office, he said….

The goblins date back more than 170 million years to the Jurassic Period, Swalberg said. The park, which gets more than 85,000 visitors per year, was dedicated in 1974 to protect the fragile formations, he said.

“There are some established trails in the park, but there are also areas where you can have self discovery and wander amongst the goblins,” Swalberg said. “That’s the beauty of Goblin Valley. It’s not meant to have people push over the goblins. It’s meant to enjoy.”

Check out the idiotic quotes from these guys in this Fox News story:

“This is about saving lives,” Dave Hall, who shot the video, told The Associated Press on Friday. “One rock at a time.”

The rock formation is about 170 million years old, Utah State Parks spokesman Eugene Swalberg said. The park in central Utah is dotted with thousands of the eerie, mushroom shaped sandstone formations.

In a video posted on Facebook, Glenn Taylor of Highland, Utah, can be seen last Friday wedging himself between one formation and a boulder to knock a large rock off the formation’s top. Taylor and his two companions can then be seen cheering, high-fiving and dancing….

“My conscience won’t let me walk away knowing that kids could die,” Hall said.

While safety was their motivation, Hall said, it was exciting to knock it over, and that’s why they reacted with high-fives and cheers in the video.

“You can’t have a rock the size of a car that you can push with one hand, and have it roll, and not have an adrenaline rush,” Hall said. “It was a crazy, exciting moment.”

What an asshole! If these fools don’t get criminally prosecuted, at least maybe the Boy Scouts will discipline them.

Boy Scouts of America spokesman Deron Smith confirmed the men are members of the organization, saying in a statement that the organization is “shocked and disappointed by this reprehensible behavior.”

Boy Scout troops spend countless hours in state and national parks, guided by the principle of leaving nature the way they find it, Smith said.

“The isolated actions of these individuals are absolutely counter to our beliefs and what we teach,” Smith said. “We are reviewing this matter and will take appropriate action.”

Moving on , , ,

NSA officials admit they put off installing the latest anti-leak software at the Hawaii facility where Edward Snowden stole thousands of top secret documents before fleeing the country and eventually accepting asylum in Russia.

Well before Snowden joined Booz Allen Hamilton last spring and was assigned to the NSA site as a systems administrator, other U.S. government facilities had begun to install software designed to spot attempts by unauthorized people to access or download data.

The purpose of the software, which in the NSA’s case is made by a division of Raytheon Co, is to block so-called “insider threats” – a response to an order by President Barack Obama to tighten up access controls for classified information in the wake of the leak of hundreds of thousands of Pentagon and State Department documents by an Army private to WikiLeaks website in 2010.

The main reason the software had not been installed at the NSA’s Hawaii facility by the time Snowden took up his assignment there was that it had insufficient bandwidth to comfortably install it and ensure its effective operation, according to one of the officials.

Due to the bandwidth issue, intelligence agencies in general moved more slowly than non-spy government units, including the Defence Department, to install anti-leak software, officials said.

In other related news,

Snowden told The New York Times in an interview that he turned all of his files over to Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras when the three met in Hong Kong last spring; he said he didn’t keep any of the files and therefore China and Russia could not have gotten access to them. From HuffPo:

Snowden said he did not retain copies of the documents and did not take them to Russia “because it wouldn’t serve the public interest,” the Times reported. He said his familiarity with China’s intelligence abilities allowed him to protect the documents from Chinese spies while he was in Hong Kong.

“There’s a zero percent chance the Russians or Chinese have received any documents,” he said….

The Times reported that in the interview, which it said took place over several days in the last week and involved encrypted online communications, Snowden asserted that he believed he was a whistle-blower who was acting in the nation’s best interests by revealing information about the NSA’s surveillance dragnet and huge collections of communications data.

The only problem with these claims is that Snowden actually gave copies of some of the stolen files to the Chinese government-supported newspaper The South China Morning Post in August, long after he supposedly turned everything over to Greewald and Poitras. So where did that data come from?

Whatever the truth is, we do know the files are in the possession of Greenwald, Poitras, Wikileaks, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and several other news organizations as well as the British security services which confiscated the files from Greenwald’s live-in partner David Miranda when he was passing through Heathrow airport. So we can be sure there’s no danger of unauthorized release of secret information. Right?

That was sarcasm, by the way, in case you didn’t pick up on it . . .

Bob Cesca had a good post yesterday on Ted Cruz and his future plans. He apparently feels emboldened by his success in shutting down the government for two weeks, and plans more destructive behavior next time. Cesca writes:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the chief architect of the tea party shutdown and subsequent debt ceiling brinksmanship, might have lost an endorsement from his home town newspaper, but he managed to raise $1.19 million during the third quarter — nearly three times the haul of the second quarter total. That period of time didn’t include the shutdown, but it included his filibuster, which, it turns out, had a very important purpose: the make money for Ted Cruz. He also beefed up his email database with a petition that gathered over two million names and addresses.

When asked who “won” the shutdown battle, Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL) told Politico the winners were “the people that managed to raise a lot of money off this.” Now, I don’t know if that means the tea party necessarily “won,” but Cruz and the Heritage Action group, which pulled in $330,000, didn’t walk away empty-handed.

While Cruz and the others cashed-in, the shutdown ended up costing the federal government $24 billion. Via TIME, here’s a breakdown of just a few of the losses:

-About $3.1 billion in lost government services, according to the research firm IHS
-$152 million per day in lost travel spending, according to the U.S. Travel Association
-$76 million per day lost because of National Parks being shut down, according to the National Park Service
-$217 million per day in lost federal and contractor wages in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area alone

And we’re supposed to continue buying the line that the tea party cares about government spending and the national debt? That’s rich.

Obviously, Cesca writes, they are going to do a repeat performance early next year. Read all about it at the link.

More wingnut news . . .

Via Kevin Drum, Eric Stern wrote at Salon about how he “fact-checked” Sean Hannity’s claims about Obamacare. Stern writes:

I happened to turn on the Hannity show on Fox News last Friday evening. “Average Americans are feeling the pain of Obamacare and the healthcare overhaul train wreck,” Hannity announced, “and six of them are here tonight to tell us their stories.”  Three married couples were neatly arranged in his studio, the wives seated and the men standing behind them, like game show contestants.

As Hannity called on each of them, the guests recounted their “Obamacare” horror stories: canceled policies, premium hikes, restrictions on the freedom to see a doctor of their choice, financial burdens upon their small businesses and so on.

“These are the stories that the media refuses to cover,” Hannity interjected.

But none of it smelled right to me. Nothing these folks were saying jibed with the basic facts of the Affordable Care Act as I understand them. I understand them fairly well; I have worked as a senior adviser to a governor and helped him deal with the new federal rules.

So Stern actually contacted three of these folks and it turns out they all lied. As Drum summarizes:

One of them was apparently just lying, and the other two hadn’t even checked the exchanges, where they would have found that they could get better coverage for considerably less than they’re paying now.

Unbelievable.

Did you hear the latest in the Ariel Castro story?

One of Castro’s neighbors has now been charged with rapes and murders. From the Guardian:

Increased scrutiny of missing person cases in a Cleveland neighbourhood following the arrest of kidnapper Ariel Castro led to charges against a neighbour for the murders of two women in the 1990s, the FBI said on Friday.

Elias Acevedo, 49, was charged late on Thursday with the kidnapping, rape and murder of his 30-year-old neighbour, Pamela Pemberton, found strangled in 1994, and another woman believed to be Christina Adkins, a pregnant 18-year-old who disappeared in 1995. He also is charged with the rape of two young girls.

“Because the public became more aware and investigators were determined and relentless, people were re-interviewed and there was an increased interest in these missing person cases,” FBI spokeswoman Vicki Anderson said.

Acevedo, who lived on the same block as Castro, was arrested in June at his Seymour Avenue residence after police questioned Castro’s neighbours and discovered that Acevedo was a convicted sex offender who had failed to report his current address.

Acevedo became a suspect in the Adkins and Pemberton murders after the FBI re-examined the disappearance of other missing women from the Seymour Avenue neighbourhood after Castro’s arrest, according to a statement from the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office.

Imagine if the Cleveland police had actually done their job years ago?

I’ll end with this wacky story from CBS Atlanta.

Bear climbs tree stand to meet hunter.

A video of a showdown between a hunter and a bear in Canada posted in May of this year is making the rounds on social media as of late.

The video, posted by Jeffrey Moffatt, shows a hunter in a tree stand with a bear at the bottom of the tree.

Much to the surprise of the hunter, the bear climbs the tree in about three seconds and comes face-to-face with the hunter. No need for a hunting rangefinder when the damn thing is 3 feet away from you!

The bear sniffs around and eventually decides the hunter wasn’t a threat and climbs down the tree.

Moffatt said on YouTube that he only had a bow and arrow – no firearm – and did not have any cell service in case the situation would have gotten worse.

You have to watch the video!

OK, those are my contributions for today. What stories are you following? Please post your comments and links in the thread below.


Thursday Reads

Matisse-Marguerite-Reading1

Good Morning!!

I’m getting  slow start this morning after rereading some of yesterday’s morning thread and seeing Fannie’s and Beata’s comments. Life is such a mystery . . . it often seems sad and even meaningless. And yet life is wonderful and beautiful too.

I don’t even know how to express what I’m feeling right now. I just want to thank all of you for being here. When I get discouraged and disgusted with our politics and the behavior of some of my fellow humans, it helps me to share my feelings with you and to get your reactions.

Now let’s see what’s in the news this morning.

Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison yesterday. But with good behavior he could be released in as little as 7 years. Charlie Savage and Emmarie Huetteman at The New York Times:

In a two-minute hearing on Wednesday morning, the judge, Col. Denise R. Lind of the Army, also said that Private Manning would be dishonorably discharged and reduced in rank from private first class to private, the lowest rank in the military. She said he would forfeit his pay, but she did not impose a fine.

Before the sentencing, Private Manning sat leaning forward with his hands folded, whispering to his lawyer, David Coombs. His aunt and two cousins sat quietly behind him. As Colonel Lind read the sentence, Private Manning stood, showing no expression. He did not make a statement.

The materials that Private Manning gave to WikiLeaks included a video taken during an American helicopter attack in Baghdad in 2007 in which civilians were killed, including two journalists. He also gave WikiLeaks some 250,000 diplomatic cables, dossiers of detainees being imprisoned without trial at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and hundreds of thousands of incident reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan….

Mr. Coombs later told reporters that he would apply for a presidential pardon next week and read a statement from Private Manning that he said would be included in his request.

“I only wanted to help people,” Private Manning’s statement said, adding, “If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society.”

This undated photo provided by the U.S. Army shows Pfc. Bradley Manning posing in a wig and lipstick.

This undated photo provided by the U.S. Army shows Pfc. Bradley Manning posing in a wig and lipstick.

Manning has expressed the desire to live as a woman, and although he may not be able to get hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery while he is in military prison, he has announced that he is now Chelsea Manning. From Joe Coscarelli at New York Magazine: Bradley Manning’s Long, Painful Road to Coming Out As Transgender.

Less than a day after being sentenced to 35 years in prison for passing classified U.S. documents to WikiLeaks, Army private Bradley Manning has a huge, if not exactly surprisingly, announcement: “I am Chelsea Manning. I am female,” the 25-year-old wrote in a statement to Today. “Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun.”

But the transition has colored much of Manning’s life for many years and factors heavily into how she became one of the most notable leakers in American history. Even if much of the world is only now paying attention to Manning’s gender-questioning, it’s always been a part of her story.

Manning’s full letter is titled “The Next Stage of My Life” and has notes of relief, her trial and sentencing finally complete after three years. “As I transition into this next phase of my life,” Manning wrote, “I want everyone to know the real me.”

Manning was wrestling with her sexual orientation while serving in Iraq and when she got involved with WikiLeaks. As reported by Steve Fishman in a July 2011 issue of New York, “Among fellow soldiers, Manning had to conceal the basic facts of his sexual orientation. On the web, he was proudly out and joined a ‘Repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ group. He’d even begun to explore switching his gender, chatting with a counselor about the steps a person takes to transition from male to female.”

Manning will probably be in her early 30s when she is released from prison; so she’ll still have a long and probably interesting life ahead of her when that time comes.

Chris Lane

Chris Lane

Australians are calling for a boycott of U.S. travel after the senseless shooting of young Australian college student Chris Lane in Oklahoma. CNN:

The indiscriminate shooting of Christopher Lane, a 23-year-old Australian who was living his dream of studying in the United States on a baseball scholarship, has repulsed many in his home country and led to calls for Australian tourists to boycott the United States.

“It is another example of murder mayhem on Main Street,” former Australian deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer told CNN’s Piers Morgan.

“People thinking of going to the USA for business or tourist trips should think carefully about it given the statistical fact you are 15 times more likely to be shot dead in the USA than in Australia per capita per million people.”

Police said Lane was on one of his regular runs through what has been described as the affluent town of Duncan on Friday about 3 p.m. when a car carrying three teenagers drove up behind him.

“They pulled up behind him and shot him in the back, then sped away,” said Capt. Jay Evans of the Duncan Police Department. “It could have been anybody — it was such a random act.”

Here’s a long article about the shooting from new.com.au: Chilling 911 call details final moments of Melbourne baseballer Chris Lane’s life.

What a heartbreaking story.

Scalia-marks-25-years-on-court-F8EK737-x-large

The states of Arizona and Kansas have followed a suggestion from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, according to TPM: Accepting Scalia’s Offer, Arizona Sues Obama Administration On Voting Rights.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, was announced by Arizona’s Attorney General Tom Horne and Secretary of State Ken Bennett, and joined by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a high-profile architect of restrictionist laws, including Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070.

The issue involves the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, also known as the “motor voter” law, which requires states to let people register to vote simply by attesting they are citizens, when renewing their driver’s license or applying for social services. A 2004 law adopted by the voters in Arizona added the requirement that people registering to vote also provide proof of citizenship. The Supreme Court struck down that law earlier this year, concluding that it is trumped by the motor voter law. Arizona, the court ruled, could not add new requirements to the form prescribed by the federal law.

But during oral arguments in March, Scalia expressed his bafflement that Arizona did not launch a broader assault on the constitutionality of the NVRA form, written by the Election Assistance Commission. The state simply contended in that case that its proof of citizenship law did not violate the federal law. Even Scalia disagreed with that, voting against Arizona in the ruling, but also giving them a valuable tip in his 7-2 majority opinion.

“We hold that [the NVRA] precludes Arizona from requiring a Federal Form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself,” Scalia wrote in the June decision. “Arizona may, however, request anew that the EAC include such a requirement among the Federal Form’s state-specific instructions, and may seek judicial review of the EAC’s decision under the Administrative Procedure Act.”

Sigh . . . read more at the link.

Bobby Jindal

According to a new PPP poll, only 28 percent of Louisiana voters still think Governor Bobby Jindal is doing a good job.

Three years ago in August PPP declared Bobby Jindal to be the most popular Governor in the country. 58% of voters approved of him to only 34% who disapproved. Jindal’s fortunes have seen an amazing shift since that time though, and our newest poll finds him to be the most unpopular Republican Governor of any state- and the second most unpopular Governor in the country overall.

Just 28% of voters now approve of Jindal to 59% who disapprove.  That’s an 11 point decline in his net approval just since February when he was already at a poor 37/57 standing. Even Republicans are pretty divided on Jindal (43/42) while independents (35/45) and Democrats (14/78) generally give him poor marks.

Jindal’s White House prospects are dismal if his home state voters have anything to say about it. Just 17% of Louisianans think he should run for President in 2016 to 72% who believe he should sit it out. He ties for 4th among Republican primary voters as their top choice for their 2016 candidate- Rand Paul leads with 18% to 17% for Jeb Bush, 11% for Paul Ryan, 10% for Jindal and Chris Christie, 8% for Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, 5% for Rick Santorum, and less than 1% for Susana Martinez. (That’s also an embarrassingly poor showing for Santorum given that he easily won the state’s primary last year.)

Jindal wouldn’t be likely to get to a general election but the news for him there is bad too- he trails Hillary Clinton 47/40 in a hypothetical match up. Every other Republican we looked at is more competitive with Clinton in the state- Ryan leads her 46/44, Paul does 45/44, Bush ties her at 44 each, and she leads Christie just 42/41. It looks like Clinton would have a chance to make Louisiana unusually competitive in any instance, but particularly so against Jindal.

It’s difficult to believe that Jindal is polling that well against Hillary.

A few more short takes:

A new article in LA Weekly offers some startling revelations about Michael Hastings’ state of mind before he was killed in a one-car crash: Michael Hastings’ Dangerous Mind: Journalistic Star Was Loved, Feared and Haunted. Based on a friend’s descriptions of Hastings’ behavior, it sounds like he was so severely depressed that he was delusional.

From The A Register, speculations based on The Guardian’s bizarre claims that British intelligence agents forced them to destroy computers that contained U.S. secrets stolen by Edward Snowden: MYSTERY of Guardian mobos and graphics cards which ‘held Snowden files’

A funny Buzzfeed list (with gifs) contributed by Marc Ambinder: 12 Ways To Easily Identify An East Coast Transplant In LA.

A very weird story that demonstrates the institutional stupidity of the Federal Bureau of Investigation: FBI suspected William Vollmann was the Unabomber.

A fascinating story at Defense One: Area 51 Has Been Hiding U-2 Spy Planes, Not UFOs

Finally, our old friend David Sirota really outdid himself yesterday with this story at Salon: This cowardly silence is an act of war, in which he claims that President Obama’s failure to object to the UK detaining Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda at Heathrow Airport is a crime against humanity . . . or something.

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you focusing on today? Please share your links in the comment thread.


The Jeffrey MacDonald Case, Domestic Violence, and Media Gullibility

Colette, Kristin, and Kimberly MacDonald

Colette, Kristin, and Kimberly MacDonald

A couple of weeks ago, I read an article at Alternet by Lynn Stuart Parramore called: How I Changed My Mind About the Jeffrey MacDonald Murder Case. Parramore announced that she had read a new book on the MacDonald case by Errol Morris, A Wilderness of Error, and that

After traveling a months-long journey that has led me from certainty to doubt to horror at a grave injustice, I’m going to turn in this article and then go run some errands and make myself a bite to eat. Mundane things that Jeffrey MacDonald has not been able to do for over 30 years. The simple acts of coming and going as I please and caring for my own basic needs have been denied him. His wife Colette and his children have also been forever denied these things — but not, I have come to believe, by the man who is currently serving three consecutive life sentences.

A little background…

Jeffrey MacDonald

Jeffrey MacDonald

MacDonald was accused of murdering his wife Colette and their two little girls, Kimberly, age 5, and Kristin, age 2, in their home at Ft. Bragg military base in North Carolina on February 17, 1970. Colette was five months pregnant when she was murdered.

MacDonald claimed he had been sleeping on the couch in the living room, because his daughter Kristin had gotten into bed with his wife and had wet the bed. His story was that he had awakened suddenly to see these four people standing over him, and at the same time he had heard his wife and two daughters calling for him. He claimed that the woman was saying “Acid is groovy, kill the pigs,” and that the three men attacked him with a club and an ice pick, that somehow his pajama top was pulled over his head and he had used it to protect himself.

(It’s important to note here that these events took place only a few months after it was revealed that the Tate LaBianca murders in Los Angeles had been committed by so-called “hippies,” who were part of the “Manson family.” In addition, MacDonald had recently read a copy of the latest Esquire Magazine, which included a number of articles about the Manson murders and about hippies, drugs, and “witchcraft.”)

MacDonald said that he had eventually been knocked unconscious and when he came to he was lying in the hallway near the couch. He then went into the master bedroom and found his wife covered in blood–she had been bludgeoned repeatedly, and both her arms were broken. She had been stabbed 21 times with an ice pick and 16 times with a kitchen knife. The two girls were in their bedrooms. Kimberly had also– been bludgeoned–so badly that a bone protruded from her face.  She had also been stabbed repeatedly in the neck.  Kristin had been stabbed in the chest and back, 33 times with a knife and 15 times with an ice pick.

In contrast, MacDonald’s injuries were relatively minor. He had a bruise on his forehead, some small puncture wounds, and a wound in his right chest that partially punctured his lung. He did not even require any stitches. He was, however emotionally overwrought and his doctors were concerned about that.

MacDonald was initially released after an Army hearing, but after a thorough re-investigation, the Justice Department indicted him in 1975. In 1979 he was found guilty by a jury. He has had eight appeals, including two that went to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Back to the Parramore piece… Read the rest of this entry »


Boy Who Killed Neo-Nazi Father Goes on Trial in California

I thought I’d take a brief break from politics to update a story I wrote about back in the spring of 2011 about the death of neo-Nazi Jeff Hall of Riverside, California. Hall’s 10-year-old son Joseph admitted to shooting his father.

At the time, I wrote that it is unusual for children to kill their parents unless there is a history of parental abuse. Hall abused his children first by exposing them to neo-Nazi meetings in the home where they soaked up his hateful ideology, and second by beating both Joseph and his stepmother. The boy had been separated from his mom for years, and at the time of the shooting was the subject of a custody battle between his biological parents. Clearly, he had been under incredible stress. I wrote in May 2011:

So we have a young boy who probably has Post-traumatic Stress Disorder from years of abuse by both parents, from being separated from his mother, and from being exposed to hate-filled rhetoric at Neo-Nazi meetings and probably from his father. It’s like something out of American History X. How could a judge allow children to live in a home like that? To me, exposing young children to racist, anti-semitic, and anti-immigrant vitriol is in itself abuse.

Since the boy is under the age of 14, he cannot be tried as an adult and will likely be put in a youth offender facility. According to the articles I read, he will probably get out when he is 25 years old. By that time, he’ll most likely be a hardened criminal.

I looked at several studies of young children’s understanding of death. A ten-year-old has barely begun to comprehend the irreversibility of death. His brain development has not reached a point where he has good impulse control or the ability to manage strong emotions well. This story makes me heartsick.

Joseph’s trial for murder began yesterday.

The 10-year-old son of a neo-Nazi leader told his younger sister that he planned to shoot their father, then a day later took a gun from his parents’ bedroom and fired one bullet into his father’s head as he slept on a couch, a prosecutor alleged Tuesday.

The boy’s father, Jeff Hall, was an out-of-work plumber who as regional leader of the National Socialist Movement headed rallies at a synagogue and a day labor site.

In opening statements at the murder trial, Riverside County prosecutor Michael Soccio dismissed the notion that Hall’s neo-Nazi beliefs contributed to his son’s behavior, as the defense maintains, and instead said the boy, now 12, was a violent child who had been kicked out of every school he attended.

The boy also suspected his father was going to leave his stepmother, and he didn’t want the family to split up, prosecutors have said.

At least he isn’t being tried as an adult. If convicted, he could be released at age 23.

Joseph’s public defender told The New York Times that:

his client has neurological and psychological problems, compounded by exposure to neo-Nazi “conditioning” and physical abuse in the home.

“He’s been conditioned to violence,” Mr. Hardy said, adding, “You have to ask yourself: Did this kid really know that this act was wrong based on all those things?”

Instead, Mr. Hardy said, Joseph thought he was being a hero by shooting his father. “He thought what he was doing was right,” said Mr. Hardy. “And while that may be hard for other people to understand, in his mind, in a child’s mind, if he thought it was right, or at least didn’t think it was wrong, then he cannot be held responsible.”

But here’s the most tragic part of this case, in my opinion:

if found responsible for the killing and made a ward of the state, Joseph, who is now 12, would be the youngest person held in one of the three fenced-in facilities run by California’s Department of Juvenile Justice, which houses about 900 of some of the state’s most serious juvenile offenders. The median age of these offenders held by the state is 19…

So the kid will be exposed to older boys who will probably abuse him physically, sexually, and emotionally. As I wrote last spring, he’ll most likely be a hardened criminal by the time he’s back on the street.

According to Joseph Weisberg, co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, it’s extremely rare for a child so young to go on trial for murder.

But Mr. Soccio said that Joseph had a history of violence, including an attack that involved wrapping a telephone cord around a teacher’s neck, and needed to be in a security setting “receiving as much help as possible for as long as possible.”

“I’ve had some people say, ‘How can you do that to a little kid?’ ” said Mr. Soccio. “And I ask them, ‘Well, would you like him to come live with you?’ ”

Whatever strategy the lawyers use, life inside the Hall household will most likely come up in the trial, and Joseph may take the stand, Mr. Soccio said. The court could also see testimony from members of the neo-Nazi group the National Socialist Movement, of which Mr. Hall was a West Coast leader.

Obviously Joseph should have been removed from the home years ago. Maybe it’s too late to rehabilitate him–I can’t say. It just makes me so angry that we live in a society that doesn’t give priority to protecting children and helping them cope with and recover from emotional trauma and abuse. Instead we cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans and skimp on anything that could change outcomes for children like Joseph. As I wrote last spring, it’s just plain heartbreaking.


Tuesday Reads: A Mixed Bag (No Politics)

Good Morning!!

I’ve decided to avoid presidential politics this morning, but I have a variety of interesting news links that I hope you’ll enjoy.

I’m going to begin with some crime stories. Do you remember Amy Bishop? She was the University of Alabama Huntsville biology professor who was turned down for tenture and later murdered three of her colleagues and wounded three others at a department faculty meeting in early 2010. I wrote a couple of posts about her at the time, see here and here. Today Bishop was sentenced to life in prison.

A former Alabama biology professor who pleaded guilty to killing three colleagues and wounding three others in a 2010 shooting rampage was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Monday after a jury convicted her in a shortened trial.

Amy Bishop avoided a death sentence by admitting earlier this month to gunning down her colleagues during a biology department staff meeting at the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

Alabama law requires a jury to decide the punishment and confirm a guilty plea for a capital murder charge.

Bishop’s defense attorneys did not contest the facts of the case during the abbreviated proceedings on Monday.

“She has admitted she did these terrible things,” defense attorney Robert Tuten said in his opening statement.

A few days ago, there was some interesting news in the Trayvon Martin case.

Forensic tests made public Wednesday show that George Zimmerman’s was the only DNA that could be identified on the grip of the gun used to fatally shoot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

The results rule out Martin’s DNA from being on the gun’s grip. Zimmerman’s DNA also was identified on the gun’s holster, but no determination could be made as to whether Martin’s DNA was on the gun’s holster, according to the report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

I wonder if that will affect Zimmerman’s decision to go through with the stand-your-ground hearing that his attorney Mark O’Mara has scheduled for next year?

O’Mara is also trying to get access to Trayvon Martin’s school records even though they couldn’t be introduced at trial because they are not relevant to the crime, according to prosecutor Bernie de La Ronda.

In a new pleading, Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda asks Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson to seal whatever those records show and in the future to keep O’Mara’s subpoenas a secret.

O’Mara is entitled to go on a fishing expedition to find out about Trayvon’s past, according to court paperwork de la Rionda filed Wednesday, but “he is not allowed to chum the waters and then, by innuendo or otherwise, to publish irrelevant items … to the media in an attempt to influence public perception or otherwise curry favor with potential jurors.”

De la Rionda also Wednesday filed a new evidence list – his eighth. It shows that a book and television appearance by Zimmerman’s self-proclaimed best friend, former Seminole County deputy Mark Osterman, are now officially part of the case prosecutors are building against Zimmerman.

Osterman’s self-published book, written with his wife, is titled “Defending Our Friend: The Most Hated Man in America.” From Examiner.com:

A new book claims that before being shot in the chest and dying, Trayvon Martin grabbed the gun of George Zimmerman, as the two struggled during a violent encounter, according to a report Thursday. This, despite the findings released this week that none of the teen’s DNA was found on the weapon….

The Miami Herald reports that Osterman was the first person Zimmerman’s wife called after the shooting. A former U.S. air marshal, he was with his friend during Zimmerman’s first three police interrogations.

According to the Herald, Osterman’s account of what took place the night of Martin’s death is “a sharp deviation from the versions Zimmerman gave…”

In his book, Osterman quotes Zimmerman as saying, “I desperately got both of my hands around the guy’s one wrist and took his hand off my mouth long enough for me to shout again for help.”

The quote continues, “For a brief moment I had control of the wrist, but I knew when he felt the sidearm at my waist with his leg. He took his hand that was covering my nose and went for the gun, saying, ‘You’re gonna die now, mother*****.’ Somehow I broke his grip on the gun where the guy grabbed it between the rear sight and the hammer. I got the gun in my hand, raised it toward the guy’s chest and pulled the trigger.”

James Holmes

I also have an update on the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting. Accused shooter James Holmes recently appeared in court with short brown hair and a few days’ growth of beard.

Seeking to avoid any delays in the Colorado movie theater shooting case, prosecutors gave up their fight to see a notebook the suspect sent to a university psychiatrist and instead argued for a palm print to compare with one found on the inside of a theater exit door.

James Holmes appeared in court Thursday with short brown hair instead of a wild shock of orangish-red hair and seemed more animated than he has been in the past. He smiled and glanced around the courtroom, looking at his lawyers and reporters covering the hearing. He appeared to be moving his mouth but not actually talking.

Prosecutors believe they still have good arguments for getting access to the notebook and will continue to fight for it. Oddly, some victims’ families refuse to believe that Holmes is mentally ill.

Family members receiving updates about Holmes from the courtroom said it’s all an act by the former University of Colorado, Denver, neuroscience graduate student to appear mentally ill.

“He’s just putting on a show,” said Greg Medek of Aurora, whose daughter Micayla, 23, died in the shooting. “I don’t think he’s crazy. He’s just evil.”

The last crime story is about the New York man who jumped into a tiger cage.

Before his now-infamous tangle with a Bronx Zoo tiger, David Villalobos adorned his Facebook page with New Age odes to Mother Earth and affirmations like, “Be love and fearless.”

Police said Saturday that Villalobos had told detectives that it was without fear that he leaped from an elevated train into the animal’s den. His reason, they said, was that “he wanted to be one with the tiger.”

Villalobos also recounted how, after he landed on all fours, the 400-pound beast attacked him and dragged around by his foot, said New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne. Despite serious injuries, he claimed he was able to get his wish and pet the tiger — a male Siberian named Bashuta — before his rescue, the spokesman added.

Based on those admissions and a complaint from the zoo, police charged the hospitalized Villalobos with misdemeanor trespassing on Saturday. It was unclear if the 25-year-old real estate agent had an attorney, and attempts to reach relatives were unsuccessful.

There’s much more weird info at the link.

Here’s a bloodcurdling historical story for you from The Daily Beast. It’s a review of a new book, “Soldaten: On Fighting, Killing, and Dying: The Secret WWII Transcripts of German POWs” by Sönke Neitzel and Harald Welzer.

How much did World War II German soldiers know about the Holocaust? Publicly, many of them denied knowledge. But a long-lost cache of secret recordings that the British intelligence service made of German prisoners of war show that, in private, they chatted openly and casually about mass-murdering Jews, demonstrating what Hannah Arendt called “the banality of evil.”

The book consists of transcripts of conversations secretly recorded by British intelligence. I’m not going to include an except, because the material is pretty gruesome. You can read it all at the link. But this certainly will be a valuable addition to the history of Nazi Germany and WWII.

The Foxconn plant in China where apple products are manufactured has been shut down because of riots that took place over the weekend.

SHANGHAI — Foxconn Technology, a major supplier to some of the world’s electronics giants, including Apple, said it had closed one of its large Chinese plants Monday after the police were called in to break up a fight among factory employees.

A spokesman said some people had been hurt and detained by the police after the disturbance escalated into a riot involving more than 1,000 workers late Sunday.

The company said the incident was confined to an employee dormitory and “no production facilities or equipment have been affected.” It said the cause of the disturbance was still under investigation.

One Foxconn employee reached by telephone Monday afternoon, however, said the incident began when workers started brawling with security guards.

Unconfirmed photographs and video circulated on social networking sites, purporting to be from the factory, showed smashed windows, riot police officers and large groups of workers milling around. The Foxconn plant, in the Chinese city of Taiyuan, employs about 79,000 workers.

The Chinese state-run news media said 5,000 police officers had been called in to quell the riot.

This one is for Connie: Stranded 655-pound turtle reluctantly released.

A 655-pound leatherback sea turtle that had been stranded in thick mud in Truro on Wednesday night was released off the coast of Harwich Port Saturday morning, New England Aquarium officials said.

A Massachusetts Audubon Society staff member spotted the 7-foot-long black male turtle in Pamet Harbor Wednesday night as high tide approached, said Connie Merigo, the aquarium’s rescue director.

Aquarium staff and volunteers, along with staff members of the Audubon Society and International Fund for Animal Welfare, brought the turtle to the aquarium’s Animal Care Center in Quincy near dawn Thursday.

The sea turtle was about 100 pounds underweight and had low blood sugar and an old injury on his front right fin, Merigo said.

“When he first got here he was fairly lethargic, especially out of the water,” head veterinarian Dr. Charles Innis said.

Innis said the turtle was treated aggressively with “injectable sugar solution, vitamin and mineral supplements, steroids, and antibiotics to stave off infection.” It wouldn’t have been possible to keep him any longer, because leatherbacks are so stressed by being in captivity that they usually don’t survive long.

That’s all I have for now. I hope you enjoyed the break from politics. I know I did. Now what are you reading and blogging about today?


North Dakota Senate Candidate Rick Berg: Todd Akin on Steroids

North Dakota Senate candidate Rick Berg

Rick Berg is currently the at-large Representative for North Dakota, and is running for the Senate seat held by retiring Senator Kent Conrad. Yesterday evening, Buzzfeed reported that in 2007, when Berg was a state representative, he voted for a bill that would make abortion a “Class AA felony,” punishable by life in prison without parole. This penalty would be applied to a woman who obtained and abortion and anyone who helped her do so. Here’s the relevant text from Think Progress:

A new section to chapter 12.1-16 of the North Dakota Century Code is created and enacted as follows:

Intentional termination of human life – Preborn children. A person is guilty of a class AA felony if the person intentionally destroys or terminates the life of a preborn child. A person that knowingly administers to, prescribes for, procures for, or sells to any pregnant individual any medicine, drug, device, or other substance with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of a preborn child is guilty of a class AA felony.

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A person that intentionally or knowingly aids, abets, facilitates, solicits, or incites a person to intentionally destroy or terminate the life of a preborn child is guilt of a class C felony. For purposes of this section, “preborn child” includes a human being from the moment of fertilization until the moment of birth.

The bill contains a separate section that says that a doctor who “provides health care” to a pregnant woman must “make every effort” to save both mother and fetus. If there is “accidental or unintentional injury” during this care, the doctor is not guilty of homicide. But the bill doesn’t specify whether the health care could include an abortion or whether the women who sought the abortion would still be considered a murderer.

According to Think Progress,

Berg was quick to denounce the comments of a fellow Senate Candidate, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), when he claimed that a woman couldn’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape.” Berg called the statement “insulting and reprehensible,” and “condemn[ed] them in the strongest terms possible.”

But like vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, Berg didn’t indicate to the media that he essentially agrees with Akin that a woman who is impregnated through rape or incest should be forced to carry the perpetrator’s child against their will.  I was somewhat shocked to learn that Rick Berg’s wife is a primary care doctor.

But the most shocking part of this story is that Rick Berg was given a brief speaking role at last week’s Republican National Convention. From the Bismark Tribune:

North Dakota Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rick Berg got a few moments in the spotlight at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday.

The Republican congressman spoke for two minutes about North Dakota’s low unemployment, job growth and state budget surplus. He says North Dakota provides a contrast to the sluggish national economy.

Berg says North Dakota doesn’t “burden our job creators with red tape” and that people “trust the individual, not big government.”

Here’s Ed Schultz talking about Berg, who is a millionaire, and admitted he didn’t know what the minimum wage is.

North Dakota Senate Candidate Heidi Heitkamp

Fortunately, Berg has a Democratic opponent, former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp. In a poll taken in late July, Heitkamp was leading Berg by 6 points. Unfortunately, it’s not clear what Heitkamp’s views on abortion rights. I’ve posted a video of her below. She sounds fairly conservative, but she would obviously be far better than Rick Berg!

Here’s her website.